This time of year can be both joyful and stressful. There is joy in the parties, holiday lights, caroling, gift opening, Santa sightings, family time, and more. But there is also stress in the crowded malls, family dynamics, obligatory gift giving, holiday card sending, travel, and so on. This year how about vowing to actively make the joyful times outweigh the stressful ones? Here are 7 ways to help make this happen.
1. Give less. Oftentimes we get into a routine of who we buy gifts for. Even if we are feeling like we want to cut back on our gift giving, we are afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings—assuming that they want to exchange gifts. More often than not, the other person is feeling the same way. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Spending time with friends and family really is the gift. It’s all about simplifying our lives where we can. Gift giving is great, but less so when it feels like an obligation and causes stress. Look at your list. Can you pare it down at all? Would your friends or family be up for drawing names and just buying for one person—saving everyone time and money? For the shopping you do have to do, try making it less stressful by shopping online or buying gift cards, movie tickets, or spa certificates. You can also donate to your friend’s favorite charity or give them a voucher for an activity with you.
Another idea is to create traditions that your family and friends look forward to over the holidays, reducing the importance of material items and increasing the importance of family time. Some ideas are building ginger bread houses, cooking together, building puzzles, playing games, and driving through the neighborhood listening to holiday music while looking at the holiday lights.
2. Send fewer cards. If you are going to send cards, think about just sending to those friends and family who are out-of-town that you do not see as often. Another idea is to send electronic cards or post a holiday video to your friends on YouTube.
3. Ask for help. If your spouse does not want to help you set up the tree and decorate the house, how about making a mini-party out of it and inviting a few friends over to help? Play some holiday music, serve up some eggnog, and have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are hosting the holidays, ask others to bring side dishes to make it less stressful for you. Let your “guests” (your friends and family who want to help you) assist with clean up. Before you move on to the next idea, list one way you can ask for help this year.
4. Eat well, exercise, and sleep. It’s tempting to go a little crazy from Thanksgiving through New Years with eating poorly, exercising less, and sleeping fewer hours. It’s okay to indulge, certainly. After all, a part of health is pleasure. But you don’t want to give yourself permission to go hog wild for the month because you won’t feel good during or after. Enjoy the goodies, just watch your portion size. Try to keep getting out for some exercise. Make exercise dates if you have to. Making exercise plans with friends will help get you out the door. And don’t sacrifice sleep. Lack of sleep can make you cranky and make the holidays all the more stressful.
5. Be grateful. Whatever stress you are feeling, turn it into a gratitude. For example:
- I’m stressed I have to buy so many gifts. → I’m grateful I have the money to do so and the people in my life to buy for.
- I’m stressed I have to travel during the holidays. → I’m grateful I have friends and family to celebrate with.
- I’m stressed (depressed) because I miss my departed loved ones during this time. → I’m grateful for my memories and that they were a part of my life. (Perhaps there is a way you can honor them by talking about the favorite holiday gift they gave you, your favorite holiday memory with them, or their favorite holiday tradition).
Is there a stress → gratitude that you came up with? If so, share it in the comment section below.
6. Take a time out. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a time out—even if it is just for a few minutes. If you are shopping frantically at the mall and are wearing yourself down, stop and just sit somewhere. Watch the other shoppers, appreciate the festiveness of the mall, and just quiet your mind. After your break, go back at it! Whether you are at the mall or not, take a time out and just be still for a few minutes (and try idea #5 during your time out). Also, remember to breathe. Breathing really can help you move from a stress response in your body to calm. Even just five deep breaths can help.
7. Let go of perfection. Your house doesn’t need to be perfectly clean, the meal doesn’t need to be gourmet, the gifts don’t need to be professionally wrapped. With love behind the hosting, cooking, and gift giving—perfection doesn’t matter.
Here’s to a happy, calm, joyful, fun, relaxing holiday season!
Dina Colman, MA, MBA, is a healthy living coach and writer. She has her Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education from John F. Kennedy University and her MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University. She founded Four Quadrant Living—a simpler, natural, more fun way to a healthier, happier, and energetic life. Four Quadrant Living provides information and motivation for healthy living through nourishment of the four quadrants of our lives—Mind, Body, Relationships, and Environment. Dina has a private practice, working with clients to help them create health in their lives by eating well, finding the fun in exercise, reducing stress, managing relationships, and creating a healthy environment. Dina’s book, “You Are Not Your DNA: 48 Simple and Natural Ways to Create Your New Health Destiny” will be published in 2013. Contact Dina at firstname.lastname@example.org
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